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Katie Couric to critics: I'm not going anywhere

18

July

Katiecouric BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Like Jennifer Holliday's fierce character from Dreamgirls, Katie Couric had one, unambiguous message for TV critics here during a press conference for CBS News:

Despite all the hyped-up reports suggesting the anchor was planning a quick exit from the CBS Evening News, she’s ain't going nowhere.

“We have no plans to part company,” Couric said, when I asked about rumors in the press earlier this year that she would leave the show after the presidential election in November or after the inauguration in January.

“There were a lot of speculative pieces that I think got, quite frankly, spun out of control,” she added, speaking to reporters in California by satellite from the evening news studios in New York City. “When you work with an organization, you have ongoing discussions. (But) I am very committed to the people here. I’m very committed to the product. So I can say (the stories are) not true.”

Flanked by Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, political analyst Jeff Greenfield and CBS News president Sean McManus, Couric seemed to cut a different figure than the glamorous news celebrity who took over the network’s flagship news program nearly two years ago. Stressing the show’s quality and the work to come covering politics and war, CBS was presenting a de-glamorized Couric; someone more in tune with the traditional priorities of the evening news audience and still hopeful they would give her show a chance.

Katiecbs_2On the question, for example, of why all three network news anchors are traveling with Democratic candidate Barack Obama for his trip to Iraq next week, Couric was candid: Obama’s organization was smart enough to invite the press along.

“I think it was very deft on the part of the Obama campaign,” she said, noting she spent time in McCain’s campaign headquarters for a story to air next week. “I have to be honest, when John McCain went to four countries in the Middle East in March – I think had he extended an invitation, offered time for each network anchor to sit down to have a extended conversation and access to him on that trip. I think that’s something we would have considered…(though) Obama going to the Middle East is a bigger story.”

My question: Why are such high-powered journalists depending on campaign staffers to invite them to cover the news? 

Schieffer had a different take: “(Obama’s) only been there once in two years…and the reason he’s going is John McCain dared him to go,” said the veteran political reporter. “It doesn’t bother me to be criticized for covering the news too much. It’s when we don’t cover it enough, that’s when I think the criticism is a little more valid.”

The group also defended foreign correspondent Lara Logan – Schieffer called her “the greatest reporter of her generation” -- despite recent messy headlines about her personal life and public criticism of the way CBS News handled some of her stories.

Still, Couric and Co. had few answers for why the CBS Evening News as recently as April still notched record low ratings, as viewers still hesitate to watch a show now winning major journalism awards and acknowledged by critics as equal to the competition.

“We can do what we’ve said from day one: which is put on the best quality newscast we can,” said McManus. “I continue to believe that if we do that, more people will watch.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:49pm]

    

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